If there was ever a goddess capable of bringing the entire male population of Olympus on their knees and ready to fight for her, it was Aphrodite.
Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility, love, and beauty, was one of the first amongst the twelve Olympian gods to be born. While her beauty was immeasurable, her love life was nothing short of scandalous.
As the goddess of fertility, she is associated with sexual love, procreation, pregnancy, and women’s fertility. So let’s flip through the pages of mythology and bask in the magnificence of Aphrodite’s life, love, and other titbits.
The Birth of an Adult Goddess
Aphrodite has two origin stories, one of which is the reason behind her name.
- The Greek word Aphros means foam, indicating the unusual birth of the goddess. After Cronos, the Titan god of time, slew his father Uranus’ genitals, he threw them into the sea near the island of Cyprus. The sexual organ produced a white foam that came in contact with the sea and gave birth to Aphrodite.
- Interestingly, she was born from the sea as a fully grown adult without experiencing a childhood.
- In another version of her birth story, as mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus (king of the Olympian gods) and Dione (Zeus’ consort in Epirus). Although, this version is not as widely accepted.
Aphrodite’s Love Interests
As a goddess of beauty, Aphrodite had plenty of suitors vying for her attention. That’s why, even after her marriage to Hephaestus, she kept having passionate affairs on the side.
Here are a few of her love scandals with other gods
#1. Aphrodite and Hephaestus
To say that Aphrodite’s charms were irresistible would be an understatement. As soon as she entered Olympus, she captivated the gods so much that they were ready to fight for her.
To prevent this, Zeus and Hera decided to immediately marry her to Hephaestus, the ugliest among the Olympians. No one could be jealous of Hephaestus; hence, peace was restored in Olympus.
Well, at least for the time being!
Read More: A story of great struggle, the legends of Hephaestus‘ ordeals, and how he won against them are more than fascinating.
#2. Aphrodite and Ares
It did not take time for a love interest to spark between Aphrodite and Ares, the god of war. Their affair started after her marriage with Hephaestus and lasted longer than the marriage itself. She gave him four divine sons, Anteros, Eros, Deimos, Phobos, a daughter Harmonia.
However, it was by no means a secret. Helios, the sun god, saw them both and informed Hephaestus of Aphrodite’s infidelity. The god of fire took revenge by devising a fine net that he attached to their bed.
As soon as the couple lay in bed, the net captured them. The best part? Hephaestus called on all the other gods to publicly humiliate the two lovebirds.
They were released after Poseidon agreed to pay for their freedom.
#3. Aphrodite and Poseidon
Poseidon’s kindness towards Aphrodite for freeing them from Hephaestus’ snare did not go unrewarded.
Unfortunately for Hephaestus, when Poseidon found Aphrodite naked, he could not help but fall in love with her. They had a short affair which ended in Aphrodite bearing him two daughters, Rhodos and Herophilos.
#4. Aphrodite and Hermes
Hermes, like most men, was head over heels for Aphrodite. But, alas! Aphrodite did not feel the same.
When Zeus saw Hermes’ predicament, he decided to step up and help him. He sent an eagle to steal Aphrodite’s sandal while she was bathing. Thus, when Aphrodite came searching for her sandal, Hermes seduced her in exchange for her sandal.
Did You Know: Their union gave birth to Hermaphrodite, a symbol of androgyny and effeminacy.
Even the mortal realm could not resist Aphrodite’s charm. Here are some of her mortal flings:
#5. Aphrodite and Adonis
Aphrodite had once found a little boy near a myrrh tree. She gave him to Persephone to take care of him. Later, when she returned to the Underworld, she immediately fell in love with the insanely handsome boy.
Except, Persephone was not ready to part ways with Adonis completely. So, Zeus divided Adonis’ time between the two goddesses to avoid any quarrel.
However, Adonis grew closer to Aphrodite which did not sit well with Persephone. As revenge, she sent a wild boar to kill Adonis. By the end of it, he sadly died in Aphrodite’s arms.
Apparently, the flower Anemone sprang from Aphrodite’s tears, signifying her grief over the loss of her lover.
#6. Aphrodite and Anchises
Once, Aphrodite fell for a Trojan prince called Anchises. She seduced him under the pretense of being a princess herself.
After revealing herself, she warned him to keep the affair a secret and promised him a son of noble nature. But, unfortunately, Anchises did not heed the warning and got struck by the thunderbolt of a furious Zeus.
Regretfully, he could never see his son, Aeneas, who grew up to be a brave Trojan hero famed to be the founder of the Roman empire.
#7. Aphrodite and Paris
Do you remember Paris, the man who set the path for a decade-long war to get a woman?
It all started when Paris was asked to judge who was the fairest among Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena. Aphrodite bribed him by promising the most beautiful girl in the world to him. And, of course, he did.
So, to keep her end of the bargain, Aphrodite made sure that Paris got Helen, albeit at the cost of the ruthless Trojan war.
#8. Aphrodite’s Wrath
Those who rejected Aphrodite’s power had to face her fury. There are a few myths that illustrate her anger in its entirety. They are:
#9. Aphrodite and Hippolytus
Hippolytus was a sportsman repulsed by the idea of marriage. Thus, he chose to honor Artemis, making Aphrodite feel shunned. In reciprocation, Aphrodite cursed Hippolytus by making his stepmother fall in love with him.
Thereupon, events unfolded in such a way that Hippolytus refused Phaedra’s advances which led to the death of the duo.
Bonus Read: Artemis is one of the Olympians’ youngest and most powerful goddesses. Her tales of heroic adventures and conquests are sure to leave you awestruck!
#10. Aphrodite and Eos
Eos, the rosy-fingered goddess of dawn, made the terrible mistake of falling in love with Ares. As Ares’ lover, Aphrodite could not handle the jealousy bubbling up inside her.
In the end, an envious Aphrodite cursed Eos to keep having unlucky romances with mortal men.
#11. Aphrodite and Diomedes
During the Trojan War, Diomedes injured Aphrodite’s arm, for which he had to suffer dire consequences. Later, Aphrodite cursed his wife, Aegiale, who suddenly started to sleep around with the enemies.
#12. Aphrodite and Psyche
Born mortal, Psyche’s beauty was at par with Aphrodite’s. Soon, her beauty attracted a lot of followers, with many replacing Aphrodite with her.
The more people started worshipping Psyche, the more Aphrodite’s ire was roused. As a punishment, Eros was instructed to shoot Psyche with an arrow to make her fall in love with a hideous man.
Lo and behold, Eros ended up falling in love with Psyche himself and could not bear to hurt her. Thus, he shot himself with the arrow and spared Psyche in the process.
Aphrodite and Her Symbols
While Aphrodite herself remains a fierce symbol of fertility, passion, love, and beauty, she has certain symbols that reflect her different characteristics. They are:
#1. Scallop Shell
Born of seafoam, Aphrodite is said to have appeared like a pearl in a scallop shell. Hence, it has become one of her main symbols.
This seedy fruit symbolizes sexuality and fertility. Ironically, it was also used as a form of birth control in ancient times.
Being the goddess of love, Aphrodite is associated with the dove, which signifies romance. This graceful, white bird is often shown fluttering around the goddess or resting on her hand.
Although sparrows are considered the most sexual flying creatures, as a symbol related to Aphrodite, they represent the purest form of true love.
These beautiful creatures symbolize harmony, amity, and generosity. Their relation to Aphrodite might be because of the goddess’ connection with the sea.
The red rose is a symbol of passion and love. According to one version of the legend, Aphrodite’s tears shed for Adonis caused rose bushes to grow from the ground. Her Roman counterpart, Venus, also has her symbol as the rose.
When Aphrodite won the fairest goddess competition, she was gifted with a golden apple by Paris. Thus, she came to be associated with an apple. Additionally, apples are symbols of lust, sexuality, and desire.
Myrtle wreaths were extremely auspicious objects for ancient Greeks. They adorned Greek attires at weddings, banquets, award ceremonies, and as status symbols. In addition, they are linked to Aphrodite because they symbolize love.
Worshipping the Goddess of Fertility
Aphrodite’s main festival, Aphrodisia, mainly took place in Attica and the island of Cyprus. Priests would purify her temples and commence the ceremonies with a sacrificial dove.
In Sparta, an alternate cult worshiped Aphrodite in a warlike form with a wholly armored body. The armor resembled that of the war god Ares’ thereby deliberately emphasizing the relation between the two deities.
Moreover, in the city of Corinth, Aphrodite’s temple, Acrocorinth, was an ode to her as the patron goddess of prostitutes.
With the dawn of the Roman era, Aphrodite was linked with Troy in many Greek cities. Her image transformed into one of maternal, militaristic, and bureaucratic.
Aphrodite in Art
From pristine sculptures to mesmerizing paintings, the goddess of fertility has been a muse for many artists. Let’s explore some of the most famous art pieces starring Aphrodite.
#1. Sacred and Profane Love – Titian
Many depictions of Aphrodite combine her two major epithets, Urania (“heavenly”) and Pandemos (“common to all the people”). In Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, this duality is shown by a naked Urania and a luxuriously adorned Pandemos.
#2. Ludovisi Throne
Aphrodite’s birth from the sea is sculpted beautifully in the back of the Ludovisi Throne. The carving illustrates Aphrodite rising from the sea, drenched in glistening seawater while her garment clings sensuously to her form.
Mostly, such depictions bring out the sexual charm that Aphrodite is known for.
#3. Aphrodite of Knidos
Giving a hard-hitting competition to representations of male nudity, the Aphrodite of Knidos was the first life-sized sculpture of a nude female deity.
The statue presents a naked Aphrodite standing against a water pot while one hand covers her pubic region.
#4. The Birth of Venus by Botticelli
One of the most widely known paintings from the Middle Ages, The Birth of Venus, is inspired by Homer’s account of the birth of Aphrodite.
Here, Aphrodite is riding a seashell towards the shore of the island Cythera. Her beauty shines through the smooth, unblemished face and long, wavy hair that seem to float in the sea breeze.
Interesting Facts About The Goddess of Fertility
Aphrodite’s tales have not ended yet! Listed below are a few facts to stir up your excitement:
- A swan gliding through the air drove Aphrodite’s vehicle
- Once, Aphrodite with her son Eros caused Zeus to fall in love with a mortal named Europa.
- Despite the estranged relationship between the two, Hera still approached Aphrodite to help assist some heroes on the quest of the Golden Fleece.
- During the Trojan War, Aphrodite managed to rescue Paris from Menelaus by shrouding him in a cloud and transporting him back to Troy.
- While most other Greek gods are not worshipped today, Aphrodite is still considered a major goddess in the Neopagan regions of the Church of Aphrodite, Wicca, and Hellenismos.
Ancient Greek mythology has somehow made divine beings quite relatable with their petty quarrels, love triangles, and deep-rooted anger issues. It is this quality that sets Greek mythology apart from its contemporaries. Because, why would I not want my goddess to make some questionable life choices while not regretting it even in the bit?
Read More: If the tales of Greek Mythology interest you, wait till you explore the equally captivating world of Roman Mythology.